Bangkok Airways has announced that it will reopen domestic flights in a phased manner, starting this week. The airline resumed its Bangkok-Samui route on May 15th and will fly to four more destinations from June 1st. The news comes as Thailand’s flight ban ends, and more airlines take to the sky, albeit with strict rules. Let’s find out more.
Airlines slowly returning to service
As the number of coronavirus cases reduces in Thailand, airlines are being permitted to operate limited domestic routes. Nok Air, Thai AirAsia, Thai Vietjet, and Thai Lion Air have all resumed flights, with Bangkok Air having resumed on May 15th. Airlines are expected to resume a number of routes in the coming weeks, with the government approving 32 domestic routes for May.
Most airlines suspended domestic routes for a month due to a precipitous drop in demand and virus concerns. Since then, Thailand has brought its outbreak under control, with daily cases in the single digits. However, the ban on international flights will continue until the end of June to prevent imported cases.
Strict safety protocols in place
While Bangkok Air is resuming flights, those on board may have a very different experience. The Civil Aviation Authority of Thailand (CAAT) had laid out a number of safety guidelines to prevent the spread of coronavirus. This includes leaving a seat between passengers, requiring masks throughout the flight, no inflight meal service, and thermal screenings at airports, among other measures. Flights longer than 90 minutes will also need to leave the last two rows empty to isolate any symptomatic passengers.
For Bangkok Air, this will mean that the airline can only sell 49 seats on its 70-seat ATR 72s, which it’s currently using on the Bangkok-Samui route. Airlines have also been prevented from hiking fares to compensate for the reduced seats, with fares capped at $0.3/kilometre.
These strict social distancing protocols have been floated in multiple countries, only to be shunned by airlines for being financially unfeasible. There is also little research about that such measures have a substantial impact on virus transmission. However, the question is how safe passengers will feel about flying post-pandemic, and if these measures will restore confidence in air travel.
While the resumption of domestic flights is a positive sign, it is yet to be seen how demand returns. Bangkok Air’s limited route map will help it ensure that it maintains profitable routes while staying away from others. However, the aviation industry continues to struggle in Thailand, with flag carrier Thai Airways looking at possible bankruptcy and others hoping for a bailout from the government.
What do you think about Bangkok Airways’ resumption plans? Will demand return any time soon? Let us know in the comments below.